Women's Hoops Blog: November 2005

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Matthew Waxman at SI.com hypes a new rivalry: Candace vs. Candice. The first skirmish is this Sunday afternoon.
All of the ranked teams won with boring ease last night.

In a battle between two unbeaten teams that probably deserve to be ranked, Western Kentucky took out Louisville.

Sophomore forward Crystal Kelly was dominant... again. She's averaging 27 points and 12 rebounds this year, and last night, she had 33 and 10. "Nobody can stop her. I'm sorry. Nobody can stop Crystal Kelly," said teammate Charlotte Marshall.

Columnist Jerry Brewer says there's no exaggerating Kelly's skill.
She is a fundamental phenomenon, with an Einstein-in-sneakers basketball IQ and an unselfish nature that makes helping old women cross the street seem played out.
In addition to all of the off-court distractions, Penn State is struggling on the court as well. After getting blown out by ODU last night, the Lions are now 1-3.

And their already-thin roster has been hit by injuries. “This isn’t the most mature team Rene’s had," said ODU coach Wendy Larry, with understatement.
The USA Today's Kate Smith on Sophia Young, and how she slipped under the recruiting radar.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In Melanie Jackson's dish column today: C. Vivian Stringer's upcoming return to Iowa, Connecticut attendance, and a look at the big games this week.
In the WNBA.com fan forum, lots of praise for Sheryl Swoopes.
At the WNBA Offseason Blog, Matt Wurst keeps tabs on what players are up to, and links to diaries from Coretta Brown and Helen Darling.
Via gopher5, Tracy Schultz at SI.com has a new set of power rankings. The Vols still sit at #1.
Candace Parker has proven to be worth the wait. She leads the unbeaten Lady Vols with 15.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Shanna Zolman (14.6 ppg.) continues to be a big threat from outside while sophomore guard Alexis Hornbuckle is putting up 11.4 points a game. With that kind of balance, it's no wonder the Lady Vols beat their first five opponents so badly, winning by an average of 27.8 points.
Yesterday's AP poll brought a couple of surprises. Texas Tech, which has four losses including two to unranked teams, somehow managed to stay in the top 25.
UCSB, struggling, fell to 0-5 yesterday with a loss at Weber State.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Texas Tech lost a heartbreaker to Stanford and fell to 1-4.

The Raiders had their chances. Down two points in the final seconds, LaToya Davis went to the line to shoot two. She missed the first. She then missed the second intentionally, and miraculously, Erin Grant got a back-door rebound and was fouled while shooting.

Grant, an excellent free throw shooter, went to the line for two. But she also missed the first, ending Tech's hope.

"This loss definitely hurts a lot because I had a chance to step up at the end and missed two big free throws," said Davis. "I think Erin feels the same way. It's real disappointing when seniors like us can't step up and finish the job."

Wiggins, Smith, and Newlin all played well for the Cardinal, especially in the second half. Coach TV, however, wasn't thrilled with the performance overall. "I don't think it was an "A' game for either team," she said. "It was kind of one of those heavyweight battles, it was a little bit ugly but a great early-season game."

The Raiders are off to their worst start in 27 years. Fans fret.
Notre Dame had another back-and-forth game, but for the fourth game in a row, the Irish were able to pull away at the end and beat USC.

“We’ve had four of those now,” coach Muffet McGraw said. “I’d kind of like to have one where we feel good and look good from start to finish.”

USC shot terribly. "If we could have shot around 36 percent, who knows?" USC coach Marl Trakh said. "You have to execute the last few minutes of the game. You have to make big shots, and Notre Dame did that."

Having lost to both ND and Long Beach State in the last week, the Trojans will likely fall out of the rankings.
DePaul is off to a 5-0 start after winning the Rainbow Wahine Classic. Tournament MVP Khara Smith had 24 and 10 in the title game win over Wisconsin.
Ohio State's Jessica Davenport is shooting 78% from the field so far this season. She's averaging 33 points and 18 rebounds per 40 minutes.

The Buckeyes have played an easy schedule so far, but still...

Yesterday they pounded Western Illinois.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

In another rematch from last year's Big Dance, the Gophers looked ragged and never led in the first half, but defeated Virginia anyway behind junior posts Podominick and Broback, who combined for 32 points. UVA's Sharnee Zoll had 16 points and three treys.

Annoyed with the Gophs' lackluster win on Friday, coach Borton sounded a brighter note yesterday: "That was a war tonight, and I'm excited about the poise we displayed down the stretch... Virginia played very hard."

Gopher frosh guard Emily Fox, already a difference-maker, stayed on the floor towards the end of the hard-fought game, in place of Shannon Schonrock-- a major rotation experiment for coach Borton. Broback was tournament MVP.
While Americans focus on the college game, pro ball continues in Europe, in Asia and in Australia. Via Stever, we learn of the first-ever player ejection in the history of Australian women's pro hoops.

The tough defense wrestling match confusing fight involved Adelaide's Jenni Screen and Natalie Porter and Sydney Flame/ Phoenix Merc player Belinda Snell: Snell put Screen in a headlock, Porter retaliated with a shove, and Porter got ejected. Game tape apparently shows Snell as the guilty party, but also shows Porter elbowing future Connecticut Sun guard Erin Phillips in the head.
Also in need of a win yesterday, Michigan State canned Gonzaga. Stifled Thursday and Friday by major-conference bigs, Liz Shimek made 5 of 5 free throws and scored 13; Lucas-Perry had 15.

The Zags kept the game close early but faded late. State coach McCallie: "Anytime you hold a team to 45 points, that's good."
After upsets earlier this week, both Texas and Purdue needed wins, and got 'em.

Purdue took out South Carolina despite trailing early. New Boiler Cherelle George, a junior-college transfer, had ten steals.

After themselves beating South Carolina on Thursday, the Texas Longhorns overcame George Washington to win their division of the Bahamas tournament. Tied with five minutes left, the game came down to free throws: Texas made 11 of 12 late ones, the Colonials just one of four.
In the Bahamas, Rutgers overcame NC State in (what else?) a low-scoring game dominated by pressure defense.

Cappie had 24, Essence Carson 14; both Carson and Ajavon seem to have recovered from preseason injuries. Cappie and Carson both played the entire game.
Baylor had trouble early with Cal-Berkeley but pulled away. Baylor Bear Angela Tisdale scored 16 on 7-11 shooting; Berkeley Bear frosh guard Gray-Lawson had 21.

Cal coach Joanne Boyle on her young team: "I don't think the kids were at all intimidated going out there...We got rushed. We had three kids foul out. I was applauding their effort in being aggressive, but at the same time, it's hard to finish a team when three of your best players foul out."
Tons of games yesterday, the most impressive in Charlotte Amalie, USVI, where Maryland nearly beat the Lady Vols.

The two teams traded one-possession leads throughout the second half; Tennessee led by just one point with 5 seconds left, but stole an inbounds pass and then made free throws for a 5-point win.

Tennessee's Alexis Hornbuckle: "I don't think we knew what we were getting into... They had us on our heels most of the second half."

Maryland post Crystal Langhorne: "We match up really well against [the Lady Vols]. We'd love to see them again."

Maryland dominated the rebound stats, the third time in three games the Lady Vols got outrebounded had trouble on the boards. Langhorne, Hornbuckle and Candace Parker scored 19 apiece.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The New York Times does a pretty crappy job of covering women's sports. We only get the paper on Sundays, but last Sunday's Sports section had nary an article featuring an athlete without a Y chromosome. Tonight I clicked on a link to the Times College Basketball page and there was hardly evidence that the women's game exists, let alone in depth analysis or feature articles.

So I got cranky and penned a short letter to sports@nytimes.com. Feel free to send them your own if you have a moment.

"College basketball is played by women as well as by men, but you wouldn't know it from looking at the Times' website. Not a single article on the main college basketball page has to do with the women's game--fans of women's basketball are limited to a link to scores and schedules in the sidebar, with apparently no analysis or feature coverage of the games. Why does the Times do such a lousy job giving space to women's sports? It's not only irresponsible and sexist, it's also neglecting a growing segment of potential customers. I do realize that men's ball is still bigger business than women's ball, but that will never change as long as sports news organizations such as yours cling to a 1960s idea of what is worth writing about.

A dissatisfied, long time Times reader"
Last year a not-very-deep Michigan State team surprised Tennessee in the national semifinals. It was one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the NCAA tournament.

Yesterday the two schools met in the Virgin Islands. Since this spring, State has lost tanklike center Kelli Roehrig to graduation, and do-everything point guard Kristin Haynie to the WNBA. Tennessee, on the other hand, has seen several posts return from injury, first among them superstar dunker (and shot-blocker and assist-maker and ball-handler) Candace Parker.

Parker didn't dunk, but she did almost everything else: she garnered 14 points, 9 boards, 4 assists, and 4 blocks as Tennesse turned the rematch into a blowout.

Lindsay Bowen had a fine, scrappy game (19 on 7-12) for the Spartans, but (as in the national title game last year) it didn't matter, as MSU's post game-- consisting almost entirely of Liz Shimek-- went nowhere: again and again the 6'1" Shimek found herself double-teamed or out of position on the way to getting her shot blocked. Tennessee had just too many long, tall, experienced posts: with Roehrig gone, MSU had none.

(Weirdly, State outrebounded the Lady Vols-- though Tennessee made so many shots that it didn't much matter who picked up the ones they missed.)

Lady Vol fans celebrate Parker's breakout, along with new composure from three-point ace Shanna Zolman.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Three ranked teams lost last night.

The Other Huskies beat Utah in Seattle: the home team's defense stifled Utah's shooters. Washington's Cameo Hicks pulled down 14 boards; Utah's Kim Smith shot only 7-of-16. UW coach June Daugherty: ""I tell you what, that was like burning the Thanksgiving turkey. It was darn ugly."

Texas Tech are 1-3 after losing at Ole Miss. The Red Raiders got hammered on the boards, 42-28; Erin Grant missed a buzzer-beater that would have tied it.

In perhaps the night's biggest surprise, Long Beach State took out USC, 51-46: the first half ended with a 17-17 tie. The 49ers forced USC into 21 turnovers; Jamie Hagiya had 3 assists to 4 TOs.

Slovy says Long Beach State's win is not really an upset. But anyone who saw this game might think it was.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

UCLA fell to BYU last night at home.

Coach Kathy Olivier, potentially on the hot seat, was shaken. "So much of rebounding is just about heart," she said. "What annoys me is they came into our house and just wanted the ball more than we did. And that was ridiculous."

Fans, players, and parents grow impatient.
Beth Mowins on Temple's Candice Dupree. Dupree had 17 and 8 last night in a win over Penn.
If you missed it, check out Aurabass's photo tour of the Vols' locker room.

The Vol-haters among you should keep tabs on the HuskyBlog, which follows both UConn men and women.

The UConn men will take on Gonzaga and sexy-ugly porn star hippie Adam Morrison tonight in the Maui finals. Morrison dropped 43 on MSU in a triple-OT classic last night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Clay Kallam's new roundup is cross-posted at Fox Sports, his first column this season there.

Clay goes out on all sorts of limbs: ASU over Stanford in the Pac-10, Michigan State and the Gophers over Ohio State in the Big Ten, Dawn Staley as the next coach at UCLA, Augustus over Cappie as top draft pick, Utah and U-Dub-- who just beat FSU-- as sleeper picks... and Western Kentucky as a resurgent midmajor.

Never heard of WKU's Hilltoppers? They've been to the Final Four three times in the NCAA era, though not since 1992: they crushed La Tech last week. Last year they took out Vandy.
Pelton analyzes the Sky's roster, focusing on per minute stats (which several teams apparently failed to do). He thinks San Antonio made the biggest mistake.
Hands down, Bernadette Ngoyisa was the steal of the expansion draft in my book. The little-known native of Congo, who debuted as a 19-year-old with the Liberty in 2002, resurfaced last year with the Silver Stars and showed incredible promise in limited minutes. Her 40-minute averages of 17.7 points and 9.7 rebounds are star quality, and Ngoyisa shot 56.8% from the field. While Katie Feenstra blocked her path in San Antonio, Ngoyisa has the opportunity to be Chicago's top post player... [H]er potential is immense and largely untapped.
Cynthia Cooper made her collegiate coaching debut last night. Junior guard Angel Smith hit a buzzer-beater to give Prairie View A&M the win over UTPA.

"You know, I owe you now," Cooper said to Smith after the game.

"I will say 50 percent or more of this was just having (Cooper) out there," said Smith. "We lost so much before she got here, we just don’t know how to win games. Tonight, even though we were down by (17), she made us believe we were still in it. She wouldn’t let us quit, because she has that will to win. It’s her. It’s all about having her on our bench."
Rice stunned Texas Tech in Houston. The Owls used good post play and a tricky defensive scheme to take down the Red Raiders.
Lauren Neaves had 27 points and 18 rebounds.

"I told our players in the locker room that we got exactly what we deserved," coach Sharp said.

Rice had lost 22 straight to Tech. In its only other game this year, it lost by almost 50 to Mississippi. "I'm just really proud of our team, because we had quite an opening-game loss over at Ole Miss," coach Greg Williams said. "We knew we were better than how we performed, but we had to come out and show it in a game situation. We had some really standout performances defensively."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Last year, Janel McCarville led Minnesota in just about every statistical category. This year, the Gophers look to present a more balanced attack.

Even without Jamie Broback, the Gophs ran eight players yesterday, and six of them ended up in double figures. The result: an unexpected win over Stanford.

"We found our identity today," coach Borton said. "This is a team by committee."

The game featured a display of great post play, from Stanford's Newlin and Smith, and Minnesota's Podominick, Williams, and Lacey. "I guess it was kind of a post player’s game all around," said coach TV.

Minnesota had no one who could stop Candice Wiggins, or even stay within a furlong of her in any foot race for a loose ball. But the defense-by-committee worked well enough to hold Candice to 21, and Wiggins simply didn't get enough help. At times during the second half, she was visibly upset with some of her less experienced teammates.

"A loss doesn't make or break our season at all," Wiggins said after the game.
UConn slowed down Courtney Paris and completely stifled the rest of the Sooners on its way to an easy win. Charde Houston had 22 and Mel Thomas had 20.

"I told them the game would be won on the offensive end," coach Geno Auriemma said. "Good offensive players and teams can get into a rhythm where you just can't stop them. You have to get them on their heels defensively. And I thought we were unbelievably aggressive on the offensive end."

Paris was held to season lows in points and rebounds — 19 and 6. "Instead of two Oklahoma Christian girls boxing you out, there are two All-American girls boxing you out," she said. "I just was not tough enough. I have to be a lot tougher, and this game taught me that."
"Happy days are here again for the St. Joseph's women's basketball team," says Mel Greenberg.

The Hawks scored their first win over a ranked opponent in four years by beating NC State. "It shows the hard work and dedication that this team put in, both in the summer and the preseason," coach Cindy Griffin said. "It was a great team win."
In her first official game as a Vol, Candace Parker notched a double-double. Tennessee won in silly fashion, beating Stetson 83-33.

"It was amazing," Parker said. "It was a great feeling because I've waited so long to play for Tennessee."

Coach Summitt still wasn't happy with the play, especially the post play. "We can't win ballgames against the top teams we play on our schedule if we don't have a better presence inside," she said.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Women of Troy got past Hawai'i in a close contest in Waikiki. The Rainbow Wahine led at the half. USC dealt with foul trouble late but won by 9: they'll play Eastern Illinois next.
Penn State held a banquet for Rene Portland. Suzie McConnell-Serio of the Lynx showed up to defend thank praise her former coach:

"My experience at Penn State was real positive. But nothing has ever been printed as far as the positive things I've said about Rene because the media is always looking for controversy. I have nothing but respect for her. She takes care of you. She fights for you. She fights for what she believes in."

For more on what Portland appears to believe in, look here.
TV commitments for Friday's game gave Baylor a home-and-away back-to-back yesterday. Sluggish early, the Bears handled the Hoosiers in the second half: Sophia Young got 19 points, 16 boards, and a taste of the WNBA's grueling schedule.
Gophers had some trouble against the University of San Francisco but pulled away late for an 18-point win.

Stanford had no trouble with LIU: the Gophs meet the Cardinal today. Shannon Bolden will guard Candice Wiggins; she'll have her hands full.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Georgia beat Santa Clara... barely, on Alexis Kendrick's buzzer-beating jump shot, avoiding what would have been a serious upset.

Tasha Humphrey had 38 on 16-28 shooting; Santa Clara's Michelle Cozad scored 34. The visiting Broncos led UGA at the half, mostly on superb outside shooting: Cozad and Kayla Huss combined shot 9-16 in treys.

Also of note: Georgia had just two bench points. (How good would Humphrey look if she had healthy help?)
In the year's first big upset, the Lobos beat Texas at Texas, 76-68. New Mexico's Dionne Marsh scored 24.

'Horns coach Jody Conradt on the end of the game: ""I felt like we got into a free-throw shooting contest and we came in second."

The match may have Big XII implications, since the same UNM team that won last night in Austin lost decisively to Oklahoma a few days ago.

Or it may not. Nina Norman sat for the second half, and Tiff Jackson left after turning her ankle: when she went off the court, the Longhorns led by 11.

UNM's student paper articulates a season preview: Lobo senior Abby Letz praises her coach and her team.
As expected, Duke flattened Penn State, the Lions' first home loss in a year and a half and only their second in the last 41 games.

Unbiased observers ask whether to call it a blowout.
Baylor got past UCLA in the Bears' home opener, a.k.a. Banner Night.

The score looks closer than the game often felt: UCLA's posts looked badly overmatched. The Bears pulled down eleven more boards. More than half UCLA's rebounds came from guards Quinn and Blue.

UCLA stayed in it through outside shooting. Lisa Willis had five second-half treys, at one point shooting three in a row off the same step-back move. She finished with 22-- but Sophia Young had 26, and made it look easy, too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Big game tonight on FSN: Baylor at UCLA, UCLA at Baylor, 8pm ET (5 PT). Blue and Quinn should outrun Baylor's guards: but can the Bruins cool down Sophia Young?
Anti-Portland rally in Happy Valley: "We are Penn State! We are not straight!"

Tonight the young Lions try not to get flattened by Duke.

(Via Carol Anne.)
University of Florida guard Sarah Lowe is a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship.

"For me it would be the utmost achievement of my life," she says. "Coming here and playing basketball at Florida is up there as well, and this would be achieving something in a different realm of life. It would be life-changing."
SDS gets excited about playing in Chicago. When she came to town for a football announcing gig yesterday, Sky owner Michael Alter picked her up at the airport.

How will she balance her WNBA work with her ESPN job? "I am going to give all I have to both [the Sky and ESPN] because I want to be the best." (Thanks for clearing that up.)
UConn took out Boston College. PGs Montgomery and Swanier ran circles around BC's guards; Barb Turner dominated the interior despite facing BC's 6'4" center Katherin Ress. The game stayed close early, but UConn took a 10-point lead into the half.

Things got chippy late: BC's Brooke Queenan flattened Montgomery with a forearm. "We played a hockey school today," Geno explained. "That's what you get when you play a hockey school."

Gampel Pavilion once again failed to sell out; by the end of the game the upper deck looked pretty empty. DiMauro asks if some fans have left because UConn has (too) few white players.

Three more likely explanations for the (slight) decline in Huskymania: 1. UConn is no longer defending three consecutive national championships. 2. UConn no longer has a magical superstar whose scoring moves draw national attention. 3. UConn no longer has any in-state players.

Next up for the Huskies: Oklahoma, whose frost post Courtney Paris has flattened opponents' frontcourts out west.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Mystics are a little miffed about the un-retirement of Stacey Dales-Schuman. GM Linda Hargrove said she would have protected SDS if she'd known. "We've always been very upfront with her, and I'm just really disappointed it turned out like this."

SDS was Clintonian in response.
I really put the word 'retirement' in quotes. For me, really, I needed to just step away and take some time on my own and take a break. I think you could say the thought of playing was still alive in my mind.
Fans debate the ethics of SDS and Coach Cowens.
Wyckoff loves Connecticut, but she's ready for Chicago. “I kind of thought it was a possibility,” she said. “(The Sun) had some tough decisions. ... I think from the end of last season, I was prepared deep down in case that was going to happen. When the news came to me, I wasn't shocked."

Thibault had to make the tough decision to protect Erin Phillips over Brooke. "We didn't have much choice," he said. "I wish I had another scenario that was better. We tried to make a deal with Chicago to not take her. They didn't want to do it."

The Monarchs were the best team last year, but they may have suffered the worst loss in Chelsea Newton. "Losing her is like losing one of my daughters," Coach Whiz said.

Chicago is excited about its pick-ups. "I'm not promising any championships in our first year," coach Cowens said. "But I'm promising that our players will be very competitive on the court and also be people our city can be proud of off the court."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Clay reviews Chicago's new roster. On SDS:
'Blondtroversy,' as Trey Wingo says. Can Stacey still play? Could she ever? Was she really worth the fourth overall pick? Will the Sky play her at the point? At the two? At the three? Is she a prettier Kate Starbird? If nothing else, she'll be something to talk about, and that's worth a lot to Chicago.
Chicago's Expansion Draft picks.
After getting fired last spring from her coaching job at Miami, Ferne Labati said she planned to sue.

The suit was filed in Florida state court yesterday. Labati alleges age and gender discrimination.

"I'm damaged goods now," she said. "People that know me look at me and say, `Tell me the truth. There has to be something else why they fired you.' What coach do you know works for a company for 17 years, bleeds orange and green, and the athletic director walks into their office and says, `You're fired' after one bad season?"
The Expansion Draft will have some suprises. Perhaps the biggest: Stacey Dales-Schuman is coming out of retirement and playing for Chicago.

After a year off, did she realize that she missed the game too much? When she found herself doing sideline reporting at the Great Outdoor Games, did she decide that ESPN work wasn't all it's cracked up to be? Or did she just want to play somewhere other than DC all along?

It sounds like the Sky will treat her as a cornerstone of the franchise.
Folks in Minnesota are debating how to use the # 1 pick. The Star Trib suggests that Seimone Augustus is the top candidate.

"She's the type of player you can build around, but not at the expense of the team," coach Pokey says. "She lifts the team, the program, the community, the game."
The ESPN2 college game schedule is available here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

DeMya Walker is expecting a baby in April. She says she does not expect to sit out next year, but will return, Tina Thompson-like, to the hardwood.

Fans say the little one will be walking in no time at all.
Minnesota Golden Gopher fans breath a sigh of relief.

The Star-Tribune, via Geralyn, reports that pre-season All Big 10 selection Jamie Broback, will return to the gophers next week. She'll be supporting her team mates in street clothes this weekend.

I will be there in my "33" jersey though.
Today was Chicago's deadline for making its Expansion Draft picks, which will be announced at noon eastern tomorrow.

Lots of interesting speculation and rumors floating around, here and here, for example
UConn played some more successful small ball last night and trounced Indiana State. Ann Strother hit 5 three-pointers and finished with 19 points.

"I felt like I've been different the first couple of games, just because I'm really looking to score," Strother said. "With (Diana Taurasi) here and some of the past players, it was kind of like that was really where the offense was. I would look to score, obviously, and be aggressive. But it's different when you have a scoring mentality."

In less happy news, only 9,285 fans showed up. It was the first time UConn has failed to sell out a game at Gampel since 1997.

“I think they're going to be fun to watch,” Geno said. “But if people are going to compare them to past teams, they're going to be disappointed.”
The Johnson-Klein lawsuit is proceeding slowly. Fresno State won a motion ruling yesterday.

Monday, November 14, 2005

God hates me so very, very much.
It's never too early to start talking about the RPI, muse of the all-powerful Selection Committee.

Reflecting coaches' growing frustration with the RPI, the WBCA recently announced that it would "no longer generate the RPI" and that it had "solicited the NCAA to make their RPI public." Later this year, NCAA will apparently do just that — but that's unofficial, it might be that only the men's Committee will disclose.

I like the idea of more transparency. If the Committee wants to rely on the RPI, then it should make it public and defend it in the open. If the RPI can't be defended in the light of day, then it shouldn't be used.

Last year I outlined a few complaints about the RPI. The 25-50-25 weighting system has some quirks. Among other things, it produces a strange mathematical inversion in the Strength of Schedule calculations. Last year that meant, for example, that beating Eastern Michigan was worth about as much to your RPI as beating UConn.

So what would the RPI look like if we used a different weighting system? What would your RPI be if it were 33-33-33 weighted rather than 25-50-25 weighted?

At the very top, there would be almost no difference. But once you get into bubble territory, you start to see some significant moves. Here are a few 2004-05 rankings under the alternate 33-33-33 RPI system, with the actual 25-50-25 RPIs in parentheses. (Thanks to Jerry Palm for providing the underlying data to make the calculations possible.)

22. UWGB (37)
26. Gonzaga (48)
27. Virginia (15)
31. Delaware (41)
32. Penn State (20)
37. Chattanooga (56)
41. Virginia Tech (30)
50. Liberty (67)
54. Eastern Kentucky (64)
55. Auburn (38)

Under the alternate system in the relevant range, small conferences did substantially better and big conferences did substantially worse. Some other possible systems — such 25-37-37 and 30-30-40 — have similar but generally less drastic changes.

It's tempting to conclude that the current 25-50-25 system has a built-in big conference bias. But stated unconditionally, that's not quite right. Some other system — such as 20-60-20 — would make the bigs look even better. Relative to the 20-60-20 system, the current system has a built-in small conference bias.

So what weighting should the RPI use?

In the abstract, there's no non-arbitrary way to answer that question. In the abstract, there's no (neutral, behind-the-veil) reason why 33-33-33 is better or worse than 25-50-25 — or, for that matter, 10-10-90 or 40-5-55.

But science could shed light. You could determine which weighting system has the greatest predictive success. It wouldn't be easy to study, and no system would be perfect or even close to it. But some systems might be better than others.

If some math PhD student can devise a better system, the Committee should switch. If nothing else, the Committee should at least be aware of these quirks and relative biases when it uses the RPI to make selections.
Is Courtney Paris going to be as good as advertised? Early signs point to yes.

The freshman post had 20 rebounds and 19 points in 26 minutes yesterday. Says Clay Horning: "Courtney Paris is going to be really, really good." Says one fan: "Courtney is a monster. An absolute monster."

OU student fans are already coming out to see her.
Keegan has posted draft databases for 2006 and 2007.
It was a star-studded afternoon in Lubbock yesterday: two games, four good teams, several great players.

In the first contest, Baylor overcame a huge deficit to beat Georgia. The Bears won the second half 47-21. “Don't ever turn that TV off when you're watching us play,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson said.

Sophia Young picked up where she left off last year. She had 30 points and 14 rebounds. Even when Tasha Humphrey was guarding her, Young scored at will.

"Sophia is just an athlete," KMR said. "How many 6-foot-1 athletes do you see that can take you off the dribble in there, stop and shoot it off a dime? She's special."

The second game featured another 30-point performance from another member of the Big Four. Seimone Augustus started a little cold, but the shots started falling in the second half when they needed to, and she finished with 32 and 13. LSU beat the Red Raiders.

"Texas Tech, their fans are the best that we've faced and probably the best we're going to face this year, so hats off to them," Augustus said. "It was great for us to face this type of adversity early and get it under our belts. I think we stepped up to the challenge."

"We played a great basketball team today," Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said. "There is no question that is one of the best teams in the country. They have so many weapons. Seimone really played well. She came back in the second half and made some big plays."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Via pilight: is Bill Clinton a Detroit Shock fan? His remarks in Israel suggest as much. (Look for Hillary's notes on the Liberty's season soon.)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

WaPo's Kathy Orton surveys DC-area teams: top-25 Maryland, A-10 power GWU, and never-really-very-good Georgetown.

Why can't DC-area teams go deep in the postseason? Maryland coach Brenda Frese says they might lack the swagger: "We're still really, really young."

GW coach Joe McKeown blames the system: "Why can't [GW] win in the NCAA tournament past the second round? Try playing at Connecticut every year."
Also from Voepel (does she sleep?) a nifty preview of Sunday's national-TV State Farm Tipoff, with Baylor, Georgia, Texas Tech, and LSU.

All these teams might contend for a national title-- but among injuries, transfers and graduation, all have lost at least one important player; Georgia appears to have lost about four.

UConn's season starts tonight. So, apparently, does Renee Montgomery, the frosh who may solve Geno's mystery at point guard.

Geno himself counsels optimism: "When we look really good, we look a lot better than any time last year. That's a good sign. Last year, when we looked the best we could look, we hadn't reached the same level that we're at now."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Voepel revisits the Swoopes story and answers some of the controversial questions that it produced:

Why is the media covering an athlete's personal/sex life? Aren't we all just getting sucked into a corporate marketing campaign? Should we be celebrating Swoopes's courage, or criticizing her for sleeping with a coach?
Coming off a losing season, Wisconsin likely doesn't have the posts, nor the experience, to challenge for a Big Ten title this year. They do, however, return two really good guards.
Pre-season All-Americans Cappie and Currie discuss their decision to return to college ball rather than turning pro.

Duke coach Gail Goestenkors on Currie's decision: ""It made her teammates feel so good that she was committed to them, to the program, to our common goal."

Cappie on her own decision: "I want to prove not just to everybody else, but to myself, I am the best player in the country. We haven't really reached that national prominence yet like Seimone Augustus."

Seimone has been working on her three-point shot; her coach at LSU has been dealing with bigger problems-- during and after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA turned LSU's locker room into a triage space.

Coach Chatman: "Any time you heard helicopters land, you knew something was happening. Babies were being born over there. There were people dying...I'm glad I coach, because so much of coaching is dealing with things head-on. You want to lay down and take a nap, but you can't."
The Courant's Lori Riley corrals this week's WCBB news, including the coaches' poll that put Tennesse at the top.

Tuesday's media poll picked Duke. So did Voepel, whol puts her picks here.
Birch Bayh, the U.S. senator who helped create Title IX, says it's under attack. One campaign to defend it starts here.
Texas lost another exhibition game, this time to the Houston Jaguars, whose lineup included LaToya Thomas and Sancho Lyttle.

Both Nina Norman and Tiff Jackson sat out the game. Texas coach Conradt: "We are thinking long-term in injuries. This is not the time of the year when you want to push things."

The frosh-heavy 'Horns pulled down nearly double the Jaguars' rebounds, but made just 6 of 17 free throws: can you say "nerves"?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The National Center for Lesbian Rights responded to Penn State basketball coach Rene Portland's denial of charges of harassment against a former player with a statement.

Jennifer Harris deserves enormous credit for standing up not only for her own rights and dignity, but also for that of the many other players who, we believe, have experienced similar discrimination by Coach Portland over the past nearly thirty years...

Penn State has assured us that Coach Portland speaks for herself, not the University, and that the University is committed to investigating Ms. Harris' allegations. We are confident that the truth will emerge and look forward to working with Penn State to ensure that it does.

The Digital Collegian reports that the Penn State Undergraduate Student Government Senate unanimously passed legislation that holds that 'acts of discrimination at the university should not be tolerated, and if such acts are conducted by staff or faculty, it should lead to their immediate termination from the university'.

One day after women's basketball coach Rene Portland replied to a Collegian reporter who asked her if allegations against her were disrupting practice,
Anything I say about that, I've already said. My job is to coach this team, and that's my intention. I've already said what I'm going to say. You can go down any road you want. I made a statement.
She issued a statement that denied allegations of racial discrimination that Jen Harris' attorneys are filing in a complaint with the state HRC.
The dismissal of the former player raising these allegations was, and still is, a basketball decision and the result of my responsibility to do what is best for this team. Nothing else. My career has been built on treating all Lady Lion players with respect. I will continue to do so.
ShockPR has posted a helpful Expansion Draft FAQ.
Penn State's local area newspaper, the Centre Daily, carries an editorial from the Miami Herald that lauds Sheryl Swoopes' decision to come out, reminding readers

Earlier this year, Jennifer Harris, a former member of the Penn State women's basketball team, accused the Lady Lions coach Rene Portland of dismissing her from the team because of anti-gay discrimination. Portland has long been rumored to use an anti-lesbian policy as a recruiting device to soothe worried parents and attract homophobic student athletes.

Gophers forward Jamie Broback was expected to lead the team in scoring this year. The team announced yesterday that she'll take an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

The early reports are vague but suggest something to do with academics. In Broback's absence, sophomore posts Tasha Williams and Lauren Lacey combined for 32 points and 23 rebounds in an exhibition game last night.
Mel Greenberg sees an improving outlook for NCAA women's basketball in a silver anniversary season that is expected to 'harvest much that is pure gold'.

The Charlotte Observer answers ten questions about women's college basketball, from 'Who are the national championship contenders?' to 'Who needs some love?'

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Preseason AP All-Americans named: the Big Four Seniors plus Davenport.
Detroit newspapers are reporting that Shock forward Swin Cash was not as healthy as she hoped when she returned to action in 2005 from an injured ACL that required surgery late in 2004. She told the News:

Last year was real tough. I looked at some film from the previous year to last year. I thought I was playing at 70-to-80 percent when I came back, but when I looked at the film from last year I was at about 50 percent... I'm real happy with the progress I'm making now. I'm going back to the basics, and I'm getting my mobility and strength back.
The Free Press reports that instead of playing overseas with the rest of her teammates, Cash stayed in Detroit to rehab with Pistons strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander. Coach Bill Laimbeer said that the original plan was for Cash to play overseas to see game action, but that the team would sit down with her in the new year to see where she needs to be.
ESPN hosted Detroit Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer in a chat yesterday. One of the questions Laimbeer answered was which six players he protected from expansion team Chicago.

The league does not allow us to divulge the names of protected players. I can say that we will be coring Katie Smith. So having figured that out, the rest of the protected players should be very easy to assume.

Laimbeer commented later that the Shock were looking forward to the play next season of center Ruth Riley, so the Shock will most likely protect Riley, Smith, All-Stars Deanna Nolan, Swin Cash, and Cheryl Ford, and promising young post player Kara Braxton.

Fans discuss who the Chicago Sky should select from Detroit's roster.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

From the mailbag, regarding Swoopes and the "ex-gay" movement:
So what about the fact that the swoopes story does basically suggest orientation is pliable? "It doesn't matter what gender the person is, when you love them, you love them," versus, "I can't help it, I'm only attracted to men/women"? What is the party line on this at the moment?
There is a standard, party-line anti-gay argument that goes something like this:

Premise: Orientation is not biologically (or otherwise) determined.

Conclusion: Therefore, (a) it is acceptable to discriminate against gay people in various ways, and (b) we should try to prevent children from becoming gay, and (c) we should try to help gay people convert.

Many proponents of gay equality seek to rebut this argument by denying the premise. I'm more inclined to say: even if the premise is true, the conclusion simply doesn't follow. Freed from fear of adverse political consequences, we might then be able to examine a whole variety of fascinating issues around orientation.

To what extent is orientation binary? To what extent is it fluid (and is it more so for women than men)? To what extent are the very concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality socially constructed? To what extent is orientation constituted and reconstituted by performative utterances and expressive actions?

I think it's ok to leave the party lines behind. If Swoopes's candor about her own experience opens the door to a new debate, that's just fine.
Geno enters the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

What took them so long? Well, the WBHOF is in Knoxville... in fact, though, the membership criteria make 2005 Geno's first year of eligibility: inductees must have been head coaches for at least 20 years.

Why does the Courant call it the "College Hall of Fame"? Perhaps because very few WNBA players are both realistic candidates, and eligible: players must be "retired from their highest level of play for at least five years." Read the year-by-year membership lists, or nominate Kim Perrot, here. Check out the WBHOF's women's hoops timeline, too.

(Via Stever, who caught it first.)
Violet Palmer, the only female ref now in the NBA, has worked men's pro games since 1995.

When she started (she says) she attracted lots of attention: "I was just hoping that as the years go, my ability to referee would stand out more than my just being a woman, because that's what's most important to me, to know players just respect me to do my job."

Tim Duncan now calls her "a solid official"; this season she may work her first NBA playoff games.
Trial postponed till December in the alleged rape of a women's basketball player by a men's basketball player at La Salle.
Dog Street Journal staff columnist Amanda Vollrath hails Sheryl Swoopes as an icon whose courage might earn acceptance for gay athletes.

Such a well known and admired star who is also gay may help bring more acceptance of homosexuality in professional sports...

Hopefully, an openly gay female basketball superstar will pave the way for other athletes to come out. I know there will always be narrow-minded ignorant people out there who will never accept any gay person, but I like to think that there will soon be a time when players never feel the need to hide their sexuality or fear harassment and isolation for being gay.

A longtime AP sports reporter looks back at the history of the NCAA tournament: how big it is now, how little-watched it once was.
Elton.com's Joey Guerra expounds on barriers to the acceptance of gay athletes in an editorial entitled, 'Homophobia in Sports: Is the Media Part of the Problem?'

By and large, the media seems to agree that professional male sports is a long way from acceptance of homosexuality--but many writers are also taking players and coaches to task for it.

Guerra discusses recent articles from Bloomberg.com's Scott Soshnick, the Boston Herald's Mark Murphy, and the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins, closing with an argument posed by Yvette Christofilis, director of a White Plains gay and lesbian community center interviewed in the Journal News by Ian O'Connor.

It's not the fans the gay player is probably worried about. If it was just the fans, more men and women would be coming out. I think it's the locker room, the organizations, the leaderships and the advertisers. I think most fans would applaud it.

The change, Guerra contends, needs to come first from professional sports organizations holding fast to the 'Don't ask, don't tell' mantra. "The fans will follow suit".
Via Carol Anne: Penn State players say they can focus on basketball despite the Jen Harris case, in which coach Portland "supported the university's discrimination policy." Just so.
Via pilight, the Syracuse student newspaper profiles Orange frosh Keri Laimbeer. Yes, that Laimbeer.
From Israel, the Deanna Nolan fistfight report has emerged. Looks like she didn't start it. (And "the locals still can't guard her.")

Monday, November 07, 2005

Anti-gay pundit and "professor" Warren Throckmorton says Swoopes proves that orientation is pliable. He also demonstrates how dangling participials can cause dangerous ambiguities.
Having gone from straight to gay, I suspect she would understand the story of someone who has gone from gay to straight.
Oooh... that is just delicious. I love it when bad writers include subconscious critiques of their own work. It saves me the time.

From the other side, Shauna Swartz takes a damning look at the media coverage of the Swoopes story.
The major media coverage of the news has, for the most part, minimized, exaggerated and/or trivialized the issue of what it means to be a lesbian athlete who isn’t closeted.
Swoopes is on the cover of this week's Advocate, with a feature story titled: "She is our champion."

UPDATE: Mr. Throckmorton has revised the grammatically unfortunate sentence above to remove all homo-fabulousness.
Deanna Nolan apparently got into a fight with Natasha Brackett in Israeli league play today. No details yet. (HT, Paul.)
Voepel had a long online chat with fans today.

And in this morning's column, she wonders whether parity means we are entering a dynasty-free era. Says PUmatty in response: "Disregarding that no one can even seem to agree on what parity is, I will believe in parity when I see it."

In totally unrelated news, Tennessee pounded a hapless exhibition team over the weekend. Candace Parker is all that and a bag of chips.
Beth Mowins tabs high-powered Duke as the pre-season favorite in an updated Atlantic Coast Conference preview for ESPN.

The New York Times' Frank Litsky writes about Cappie Pondexter and Charde Houston - two Big East players he calls 'perhaps the two most gifted women's basketball players in the Big East, which is perhaps the strongest conference in the nation'.

Cappie on Cappie:
She comes with a lot of responsibility. She's unselfish. She has the will to win. She's very coachable. But sometimes she plays down to the level of competition. If she plays the way she can, her team could win the national championship
There's a new book out for the basketball history buffs among you. Marian Bemis Johnson and Dorothy McIntyre have just published "Daughters of the Game," an oral history of girls' basketball in Minnesota in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Sara's recently deceased grandma was interviewed for the book. She played half-court ball for New Richland in the 20s, and lived the rest of her life as a rabid (and notorious) basketball fan.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lior Klinger caught up with Maryland's Shay Doron, Villanova's Liad Suez, UCLA's Ortal Oren and eight others who are studying and playing women's college basketball in the USA this season. Read about their personal and team expectations and future plans in Safsal's NCAA women's college basketball preview.
Jerold A. Wells Jr. believes that it is plain to see that Sheryl Swoopes has opened up a very large can of worms, but hopes that the courage to come forward is welling up inside of a gay male superstar at this very moment.
The Daily News Tribune sent D. Craig MacCormack to Boston area high schools to ask students in local gay-straight alliances what Sheryl Swoopes' disclosure means to them.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Jen Harris has taken the first step in the legal process: she has filed a complaint against Rene Portland and PSU with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

NCLR will be assisted by Philadelphia law firm Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin.
Via Carol Anne, Dave Zirin at the Nation criticizes the mainstream media's coverage of the Swoopes story.
It should probably go without saying that looking to Around the Horn or Jim Rome for a serious discussion on sports and sexuality is like reading Ann Coulter for a history of Islam. But tragically, many writers and voices that should be celebrating this moment are choosing to be little more than a fun-house reflection of the mainstream sports blather, concentrating on what Swoopes is not: a man.
The 'Horns lost an exhibition game last night to Everyone's Internet. EI has Tech up next.
Sally Jenkins proposes a Moron of the Week award.

Inaugural nominees: Paul Pierce, Jean Van de Velde, and Fisher DeBerry.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

From the mailbag, in response to Glenn Nelson:
I thought the article was, once again, the same tired screed, albeit unknowingly written as a screed, by a man who knows nothing about the issues. He may think he does, he may be sympathetic to other issues pertaining to girls bball, but he doesn't know about gay teenagers, especially girls. If there is a perceived "problem" then there should be adult leadership around the issue. Every coach should deal with "issues" that may come up during the season AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON. That's a no brainer. If some gay "issues" caused his team to suffer, then it is his responsiblity. I have seen many more teams suffer from morale issues because of fathers yelling at games and beating up on their spouses than I have of young girls who are just approaching consciousness "causing" low team morale.
Meanwhile, at the Full Court board, a dad expresses renewed concerns about "lesbianism." Says another:
Our AAU team purchased over 100 tickets to WNBA games last season. The lesbian presence at the games was already becoming a problem for the parents, but with the Swoopes thing now that is the last straw and we will not be returning next season.

I am sure many school and AAU teams across the country are facing the same dillema, so multiply the loss of our 100+ tickets x 1000, and one wonders if the teetering WNBA can withstand the loss of hundreds of thousands of ticket sales.
Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Meanwhile, the ESPN board just gets weird.
Shelly Anderson at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette proposes "locking Swoopes and Rene Portland in a room, turn the cameras on and see how that conversation unfolds."

Earlier this week, LGBT students at Penn State urged the student senate to pass legislation covering discrimination. "It takes specific cases to pass legislation; maybe we do have to single someone out," senator Keith Crouse said.

Some students also plan to protest the Renaissance Scholarship Fund's dinner tonight, where Rene will be honored as Renaissance Person of the Year.

The Philly Inquirer compares Swoopes to tennis star Amelie Mauresmo.

And in case you missed it, check out Glenn Nelson's Swoopes article including his discussion of team dynamics surrounding this issue.
I once had an openly gay player on one of the teams that I coached. Though she shared the fact of her sexual preference with her teammates, ignorance and mistrust prevailed. Being a teenager, she didn't understand boundaries, but neither did her teammates. Whenever she shined on a teammate, some of the others told that player she was being "hit on." An underlying gossip gripped the team and the player retreated into isolation. She began seeking company from players on other teams and this, of course, was interpreted by some of her teammates as aloofness. My team's chemistry suffered greatly.
Also today, an interview with Swoopes at PlanetOut. Swoopes discusses the league's difficult position with respect to gay issues, and she says that she personally never experienced any homophobia within the league.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

MJD: "Fortson is an idiot, and the fact that he's a homophobe would be about as shocking as learning that Darius Miles owns the movie Friday."
Maryland student paper columnist tells Terp fans to support the ladies.

Peter Newmann says it's time for Maryland to live up to its potential.
Super-secret protected lists were due yesterday. Unfortunate quote in the Seattle Times today:
shooting guard Betty Lennox is ineligible for the expansion process because she's an unrestricted free agent, essentially giving Seattle seven protected players including Lennox.
Earth to Jayda.
First coaches' poll out, with Tennessee on top.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Arizona mourns Shawntinice Polk.
Coming next season to a WNBA arena near you: the 24-second clock.

Hooray, says I.
Tubby Sonics thug Danny Fortson threatens any gay teammates that they'd better stay in the closet.

Celtics captain Paul Pierce says, only half-jokingly, that he wouldn't want to guard a gay player in the NBA.

On Saturday, NY Daily News columnist Filip Bondy chided the NBA, the WNBA, and David Stern for their institutionalized fear of the gay issue.

So what has the official reaction been from Secaucus?

[Crickets chirping.]

On dotcom's main page, two links to external Swoopes stories. One reader noticed that on the day of Sheryl's announcement, her profile disappeared from the "Our Voices" feature box at the bottom right of the page.

At the offseason blog, however, Matt Wurst collected a whole bunch of media stories and praised Swoopes for transcending her sport.